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                Parenting Basics 101

                                    Learn how to be a better parent using tried and true methods

Parenting Blog

I post here from time to time as issues come up, or in response to parent feedback and questions

Parenting Blog

The Dangers of Helicopter Parenting

Posted by Dave on November 26, 2012 at 8:15 PM

Don’t want your kids to sink? Teach them to swim!


“Helicopter parents” are those who swoop in to “rescue” their children from every little difficulty in life, sometimes preemptively. It likely seems a good idea at the time, but it’s one of the most destructive things you can do to your children’s ability to become self-reliant.


By “rescuing," you’re really robbing your child of essential learning experiences. Some things are best learned through trial and error, experimentation – and, yes, failure. Instead of learning the things they need to know later in life, they learn instead to be dependent on you! (Want your kids living with you into their 40s? ‘Nuff said.)


So, here are a few “don’ts” to keep you on track:


Homework – it’s theirs, not yours. Yes, sometimes they need help, but you should never do the actual work for them. Help should take the form of assisting them past a rough spot by asking appropriate questions, filling in a missing bit of knowledge that lets them complete the assignment, or guiding them to appropriate resources. Solving one math problem with them to show how it’s done is fine – finishing the paper for them to assure a good grade definitely is not!


Speaking for your child – This one’s a big self-confidence killer. Kids need to learn how to interact with others, especially adults. If you regularly speak for your child they’ll never get there. (Have you heard about the parents who go to their adult children’s job interviews with them?) Not only is this a big confidence killer, it robs them of much needed thinking-on-their-feet skills. If anyone asks your child a question, let them answer for themselves. If they’re having difficulty expressing themselves, you can try a gentle clarifying question or prompt, otherwise bite your tongue! However, if the question is clearly inappropriate or well over their heads, it’s okay to speak up.


Picking your kids’ friends – I have to admit, I struggled with this one myself. My son wasn’t especially good at making friends in his early elementary years, so we tried picking kids we thought would be compatible. Disaster! It quickly became apparent that our selection criteria were well out of sync with theirs. He was unhappier than ever. (Around 4th grade I figured out that he had ADD, and the problem with making friends stemmed from his inability to focus on the relationships. Six months after starting Ritalin he was one of the more popular kids in the class and made the honor roll.)


A friend of mine tells me that during his son’s teenage years they tried steering him away from kids they thought would get him into trouble, but that only built up resistance and he continued the friendships out of defiance. As a result he ended up in serious trouble with the law, and it will follow him for the rest of his life. That was a big eye opener for him and his choices were a lot better afterward.


A better approach is to educate them early about how bad choices can have devastating consequences. If a friend raises concerns for you, it’s okay to say so, but stop well short of demanding they break off the friendship. Be clear about your concerns. Even if they initially minimize the down-side risk of the friendship, rest assured they’ll be thinking about it, and when the time comes will hopefully make good decisions. You can’t protect your child from every possibility, but you must give them the tools they need.

Categories: General Topics